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Louise Penny is the fifth of the six novels I am reviewing from the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards in the “Best Novel” category. I confess I have never read Ms. Penny’s novels and from her bio it looks as though I’ve missed a great series. How The Light Gets In, which draws its title from the Leonard Cohen song “Anthem” (Ring the bells that still can ring,/Forget your perfect offering,/There’s a crack in everything./That’s how the light gets in.) is the eighth offering featuring Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector for the homicide department of the Surete du Quebec.

The story opens with a woman’s apparent suicide that is baffling to her family and friends. The story quickly seems to pick up from where I imagine the last novel in the series left off and to Ms. Penny’s credit, she does a credible job making the story readable, even if the reader is new to the series. Gamache is seemingly on his last legs as the Chief Inspector, having lost most of his loyal underling investigators to other police departments, including his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Chief Inspector Francoeur (Gamache’s superior) is responsible for decimating Gamache’s team and is the ultimate bad guy in this story of corruption at the top.

The lone exception left in the Surete is loyal Isabelle Lacoste, who assists Gamache with investigating a second murder of a woman named Constance Pineault. It is slowly revealed (painfully so) that she is the last living member of the famous Ouellet quints. I won’t reveal any of the plot from here on out, except to say that the author does a credible job of misdirection to keep the reader guessing.

My main difficulty with the novel is the pacing. Ms. Penny thrives on presenting a drawn out narrative, every action has a reaction, every description is lovingly detailed, every nuance is explored in depth, and well, you get the idea. I am not a fan of the book for that reason. And perhaps the flow lags because of too much backstory, the author feeling compelled to fill us in due to the ongoing nature of the series. In my mind it only bogs down the story.

Whatever the reason, if I weren’t reviewing this novel for the Edgars, I would have put it down after the third chapter. (Having said that, I did order the first novel in the series to see if Ms. Penny’s narrative style has changed over the years.) Reading preferences are quite subjective. Ms. Penny has won numerous awards for her writing and it is obvious that she has legions of loyal followers. On a positive note I did enjoy the cast of characters presented, especially the townspeople of Three Pines, Ruth and her duck Rosa in particular.

On a scale of one to ten, I rate this novel a four.

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